Thursday, May 22, 2014

I take a stroll, starting out aimlessly, and end up doing some yoga in the kid's playground part of the local dog park and garden up on S Street, Mitchell Park.    The playground, fenced off, jungle gyms and swing set, has a soft play surface made of ground up tire pebbles, cushiony.  So, I take off my sneakers and socks, wallet, keys, pen, phone out of pocket, and I start my little yoga routine, and it's nice to do a tree pose outside where there are trees.  It's nice doing warrior poses and triangle under the arch of the blue sky in the evening quiet.  And you know, doing yoga, shoulder stand, head stand, lotus, in public for the first time in ages, thoughts come, elusive as they might be to put back into words and some form of verbal understanding, flickering away like fish if you try to hold them.

My job (as bartender in a particular sort of place) became a strange embodiment of the old Buddhist saying, "It matters not what path one take; I am there to meet him."  I found within it that I could relax in the perfection of the world.  I didn't have to place any meaning upon it, just accept whoever came in, fine, ( the best way to look at it anyway)  do your bit, run down the clock, clean up and go home.  And walking around slowly, meditatively, after doing my yoga, looking the irises and the green grass and the dawn redwood sapling growing up fine and straight there is peace in the world, as if for a moment one had entered Buddha's Deer Park just as the first lesson of the Noble Truths comes into the world, the sky just so, the light, the air, all of it agreeing to be perfect for what it is and meant to be.  Thunderstorms may come later.  The phone might ring or text, but for now, peace.  Contentment from within to match the understanding.

Have I always been prone to be the solitary contemplative to come across the perfection of Buddhist thought.  Considered weird and an outsider, until discovered to be more normal and saner than anyone.  If the nature of reality, the Universe, That Which Is, can be summoned, then we are a part of that just as we are, no need to go run and do anything.  Deeper study comes along to reaffirm, to flesh out the great theories of that which works on gut instinct and a practical approach to work.  Go and read the Buddhist literature and piece it all together, because it works.  No need to go and do anything differently than you've been doing, just do it with awareness.  Things are perfect as they are, being constructed that way all along, forever.

"But stop overanalyzing," a friendly voice says.  "Stop putting off, live in the moment, don't burden yourself with comparison to otherness, use your energies for work, live your life, get out of your own head."  Which is flattering to hear, appreciated and all that, but as usual the finger wag seems to come at at time of hard earned revelation, of finally putting good practice to work, of some discipline, some clarity, quiet concentration, and that sort of stuff.  And hey, whether a general soreness, or the lingering cold, or the tight crick in the neck, or the tree pollen, you avoided the invitation to go join a good friend at a bar, which is great, a good thing brought home by the fact that you'd only really been up two hours or so anyway (and who wants to start in with wine right after they get up...)  It was definitely better  (if you could make such a judgment anyway, venturing into the falseness of dualities)  to go do yoga in the park, and then to admit a lack of energy, such that you stayed home, at peace, (until word came that the restaurant had some form of kitchen fire event, which provoked some temptation to go out on the town...)  Meditation may be difficult sometimes, but it is a very useful exercise, speaking from recent experience, the calming effect its practice has over the little storms within the monkey mind.

Indeed, it was nice to stay home reading D.T. Suzuki on Mahayana Buddhism, beautifully presented.  And if I have some karmic legacy that makes any sense it is that my father was a scientist, a botanist, one who incorporated the bigger questions of reality into his science, dovetailing with elements of Buddhist thought.  Such that in a bad or sorry mood I might really berate myself for not following the scientific path, but the good news being that there is a large element or compatibility within Buddhism of the scientific.  But place such sins as your own aside, because you can miss the point if you're just sitting around denying that you are alive, or reviewing all your bad acts, so, the famous Middle Path in all things.  If you are a frustrated science writer, with a lazy or distracted educational past preoccupied by poetry, well, the "science" of Buddhist thought is a rich place to find some discipline.

The thing about writing, often overlooked about it, is that it has to fall in with the compassion that is at the heart of the Dharma.  That's why you go through the trouble (of looking so stupid and publicly foolish as to have a blog or some other utterance specious in nature.)   Kindness is at the heart of all writing, properly.  You're here to perpetuate the greater truth behind all things, and follow through with that bodhisattva duty of engaging with people who need it and, at the very least, practicing a kindness and a patience and a tolerance reflecting the greater reality, and for them holding up, as Buddha did, quietly, in silence, a flower to convey enlightenment.  Even if the modern mind, skeptically responding, says, yeah, but...

If you stop and trouble yourself with reading the comments to a youtube lecture of the Dalai Lama you may well find yourself unimpressed and take away a sense of the willful dug-in intolerant ignorance, at least in the type of people who feel compelled to make negative comments in such a forum.  I wouldn't recommend it.

The first teachings of Buddha, even him, were met with skepticism anyway.

We might not have, even in this season of Commencement Speeches--thanks to NPR for reminding us of David Foster Wallace's at Kenyon, (speaking of the great kind act that writing truly is)--all that much to go on.  We have, from Buddha himself, a bit of guidance, the Eightfold Path, a handy list of dos and don'ts, but such things too can be, I don't know, a little wooden, stiff, until you remember that such teachings are meant for the purpose of getting you across the river, over to the enlightened side, as a raft you may then abandon as having served its use.  (I didn't come up with that myself.)  ... remembering that it all came from a very nice fellow, and perpetuated by more nice people, you have an innate way to know about thoughtful action, the considered act, careful, proper.  It's like a built in yardstick, a refined lens to see through.  You can guess better, know the difference better between selfish and unselfish.

Mahayanists, it turns out, offer a fair amount of leeway to bodhisattvas, judgment calls.

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